Supporting Amateur Radio Emergency Communications

Bubble WrapTonight’s Trivia Question is about bubble wrap, the clear plastic sheet containing trapped air bubbles that are used to package fragile items.  It turns out that “cushioning material” was not what the inventors were trying make when they developed it.

QUESTION:

We’ve got a two-part question for you tonight:

First, what were the inventors trying to create that eventually became the cushioning material bubble wrap?

Second, in what year was Bubble Wrap first used as a packaging material?

ANSWER:

1. Textured wallpaper
2. 1960

EXPLANATION:

Bubble Wrap’s original purpose was far from what we use the product for today.
In 1957, engineer Al Fielding and Swiss inventor Marc Chavannes were trying to create a textured wallpaper. To do so, they sealed two shower curtains together in such a way that air bubbles were captured, giving the wallpaper a textured appearance.

But the wallpaper idea didn’t sell too well.

Undeterred, Fielding and Chanvannes decided to market their invention as greenhouse insulation. Though the material did offer somewhat of an insulating effect, this idea didn’t pan out popularly, either.

It wasn’t until three years after the origination of their invention that Frederick W. Bowers, a marketer at Sealed Air, which made the product, finally came up with the perfect use for it. On October 5, 1959, IBM had announced their new 1401 computer. Bowers got the idea that Bubble Wrap could be used as a good packaging material to protect the computer while it was being shipped. He pitched the idea to IBM and demonstrated Bubble Wrap’s protective abilities. His demonstration went over well, and IBM began purchasing Bubble Wrap to protect their 1401 and other fragile products they sold and shipped beginning in 1960.

From those humble beginnings, Sealed Air has grown to annual sales of around $4 billion, with a net profit of around $255 million. About 10 percent of its revenue comes from Bubble Wrap, so around $400 million worth of Bubble Wrap is sold annually.

So, the original idea was to create textured wallpaper, and the first use as cushioning material was in 1960.

NET CHECK IN’S:

Tonight we had a total of 34 people check into the Net and, of those, several had one or the other question correct but only 2 had the correct answer to both Trivia Questions. Congratulations to :

  • John – KD6JEV
  • Mark – W6MWL

As always, a big thank you to everyone who checked in to the Net tonight.

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